“I don't eat carbohydrates, make you fat! "How many times have you heard it? Indeed, it would not be a completely wrong choice, but this goes beyond the flat stomach and the six-pack. The low-carbohydrate diet in fact has several positive effects on our body and several studies highlight them, but as in all diets, there are pros and cons and you need to know how they work. The chetogenic diet, which is now also in fashion, it goes slightly beyond the reduced consumption of carbohydrates. let's talk about!

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Since 1920 it was thought that a low-carbohydrate diet could be a decisive treatment for epilepsy in children, avoiding the use of heavy drugs. To date it is known that the possibility of changing one's diet to decrease, or even remove, pharmaceutical treatments is an excellent strategy, but it must be followed with rationality and knowledge, and certainly not with the Do-It-Yourself method.

But let's see what the ketogenic diet consists of and how it works.

Let's put the word "ketogenic" aside for a moment and focus on carbohydrates: these molecules are long chains of complex sugars commonly found in foods such as bread and pasta, but not only. Our body needs sugar, and we eat them with gusto. When these molecules enter our body, they are digested and transformed into glucose units, which act as gasoline for our body, and which are therefore sent to every "district".

NB: our neurons are unable to produce energy on their own and need circulating glucose, or "sugar for the brain".

But what happens then if we don't have carbohydrates available? It happens that our liver will attack the fatty acids that will be broken down and digested to form a molecule called acyl-CoA. This enters the Krebs cycle: a cascade of chemical reactions at the base of cellular metabolism that produces many of the molecules used for energy purposes. When acil- CoA exceeds, the molecules fuse together to form the ketone body number 1: l’acetone, then the vinegar acetate and finally the 3-hydroxybutyrate. These are our ketone bodies.

Chetonic bodies. Up: Acetone. In the middle: acetoacetato. Down: 3-hydroxybutyrate

So we don't have glucose in our circulation, but ketone bodies: we are starving our brains? No! But we force him to gear up and find an alternative way. In fact, ketone bodies are able to pass the blood brain barrier and reach neurons directly, who will use them as a source of energy.

In recent years it has been seen how a low-carbohydrate diet can also have positive effects in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. In fact, ketone bodies are a preferential resource for the synthesis of neuronal lipids, that is, those that make up the membranes of our neurons, fundamental part for the conduction of the electrical stimulus.

Today there are different types of ketogenic diets which vary according to the quantity and quality of fats and proteins used. One of these is the one developed by Wilder in 1921, based on long-chain fatty acids. Very interesting is the recent research by the Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation on the positive effect of the ketogenic diet on migraines associated with weight loss in obese subjects.

Then, to conclude, a low-carb diet might seem like a good way to lose weight (ketone bodies also have an anorexigenic function and reduce appetite), and with many beneficial effects on health, from cardiovascular to neuroprotective ones. However, all the cases mentioned above refer to pathological subjects, with neurodegenerative diseases or severe obesity. The chetogenic diet, indeed, it is not without risks and side effects, so beware of scams: Keto products, or simply smoothies with added ketogenic bodies, they cannot work in any way. Rather, the dark side of the ketogenic diet is the risk of ketosis, or a too high content of these molecules in the blood. If the ketone bodies are not used, must be disposed of and the only two ways are pulmonary respiration and urine, therefore an excess of them would lead to kidney fatigue. In case, ketosis can be easily diagnosed with a urinalysis, or acetone test.

Finally, we would like to underline some points:

  1. Nobody should write a diet on their own, always better to follow the advice of the experts, that is doctors and nutritionists.
  2. There are so many healthy ways, very healthy, to lose weight while maintaining excellent health; this is not quite the best.
  3. Be wary of diets with too cool names, ketogenic simply means that it generates ketone bodies.
  4. A low-carbohydrate diet is another thing, but don't waste time explaining it to mothers and grandmothers, they may not understand your rejection of their noodles, you would only hurt them!

Sources:

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/8/1742/htm
https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/ketogenic-diet/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6251269/